January 30 - February 3

With the first quarter of the legislative session complete, 741 bills have been introduced, 10 bills have been approved by the Legislature, and one bill (HB 1 which funds the legislative session) has been signed by the Governor. Most of the attention during week five of the legislative session remained focused on budget subcommittee work, the Governor’s tax proposals, and the progression of the state employee pay plan (HB 13), which passed out of the House Appropriations Committee last Friday. Some had predicted the full House would consider the pay plan as early as today, but it’s more likely to be considered next week. 

MUS Budget Deliberations

Earlier in the week, the MUS wrapped up the bulk of its work with the Section E Joint Subcommittee. On Monday the subcommittee discussed several options for “decision packages” or adjustments to the MUS budget, including providing funding for additional proficiency-based education training in the MUS educator prep programs, student financial literacy training, and the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES). The subcommittee also discussed converting one-time-only funding for the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, MSU Seed Lab, and MSU Wool Lab to base funding that will provide on-going support for these programs. Funding for the MUS-driven sprint degree and seamless system initiatives also received positive feedback from the subcommittee. Although subject to change, the Section E Subcommittee is planning to act on the MUS budget and associated decision packages on February 17.

Campus major repair and capital projects remain with the Section F Joint Subcommittee on Long Range Planning. With attention shifting to the work of the full House Appropriations Committee soon, the Section F Subcommittee is planning to act on HB 5 next Wednesday. The subcommittee will also consider approving HB 10, which includes funding for state IT infrastructure projects. 

The OCHE team continues to monitor hundreds of bills that may impact the MUS, employees, students, and campus operations or programs. A status update on some of these bills is provided below.

Updates and What to Watch

SB 70 – Revise the Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program

SB 70 seeks to remove the critical quality educator shortage area requirements for teachers qualifying for the Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program. The bill easily cleared the Senate on 3rd Reading and will be transmitted to the House for consideration.

SB 232 – Provide for deadlines to respond to public information requests

SB 232 requires a public agency to acknowledge receipt of requests for public information within 5 days of receiving the request, requires an agency to provide the requested information within 20 working days from the date the agency acknowledges receipt, provides for extension of the deadline, and allows a person to file an action in district court if an executive branch agency fails to meet the deadline. SB 232 has been assigned to the Senate State Administration Committee and awaits a hearing date.

SB 233 – Enhance legislative understanding of state-tribal relations

SB 233 requires the Legislative Services Division to make available to legislators training and information on Indian law, the history of federal Indian policy, legal rights of tribal members, and social, economic, and cultural issues of concern to tribes. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Legislative Administration Committee. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

HB 10 – Long-range information technology financing and appropriations

HB 10 appropriates money for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of the state’s information technology infrastructure, including cybersecurity enhancement, grant management systems, software management systems, electronic health records, child support enforcement systems, offender management systems, and others. HB 10 also provides funds for replacement of the Department of Justice’s motor vehicle registration and licensing system. The Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning heard the bill on January 30, with subcommittee action expected next week.

HB 31 – Generally revise laws related to academic brewers license

HB 31 allows a unit of the MUS or a community college that is part of a community college district the ability to apply for an academic brewers license. The Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee unanimously agreed to send the bill to the Senate floor for debate, which has not yet been scheduled.

HB 185 – Increase appropriation to MSU Fire Service Training School

HB 185 provides a $352,000 biennial appropriation and a $120,000 one-time-only appropriation to the MSU Extension Fire Service Training School to be used for increased staff resources, fire engine maintenance, and training. The bill cleared the House last week, and the Senate Finance and Claims Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing.

HB 245 – Revise tax credit for trades education and training

HB 245 expands the list of qualifying trades for the trades education and training tax credit. In the context of the tax credit, a “trade profession” means “skilled occupations in a specialized craft requiring advanced training and education but not typically requiring a 4-year postsecondary degree.” After clearing the House Taxation Committee on a unanimous vote, the bill was rereferred to the House Appropriations Committee which amended the measure and sent it to the House floor by a margin of 12-11. Floor debate has not yet been scheduled.

HB 288 – Revise laws related to tuition waivers for American Indian students

On Wednesday, the House Education Committee tabled HB 288, which proposes to extend tuition waivers for American Indian students to include enrolled members or descendants of a federally recognized Indian tribe whether or not the tribe was located in Montana. Amendments became available on Friday to restore the requirement that the tribe be located within the boundaries of the state, suggesting there may be an attempt to revive the bill.

HB 367 – Providing clarification for use of federal funds for data modernization

HB 367 requires the Office of Public Instruction’s use of federal money for database modernization to facilitate secure sharing of data among state agencies using the data systems, including data sharing among OPI, the MUS, OCHE, and the Department of Labor and Industry. The House Appropriations Committee heard the bill on Thursday.

Time Served

Legislative Day: 25
Percent Complete: 27.78%